How To Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring [Step By Step Guide]

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“How to stagger vinyl plank flooring?” is a question we receive all the time. Vinyl planks are trending in home design right now, and rightfully so.

They offer a wide variety of colors and styles that make it easy for people to add new flooring without breaking the bank or going through a lot of hassle.

Some important things to note on vinyl planks is that they are NOT real hardwood floors. Although some people like to do the work of switching their flooring without buying new, it can be difficult at times.

Vinyl plank flooring isn’t always easy to stagger and sometimes requires a bit more patience, creativity, and time than usual.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you the basics of how to stagger vinyl plank flooring as well as give you some tips and tricks to make it easier. Let’s get started!

Explained Step By Step On How To Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring

Know More About H-Joints And Step Patterns

There are a few different types of layouts you can use for your vinyl flooring. If you’ve ever noticed hardwood floors, usually they’re set together in what we like to call an “H-Joint”.


This means that each piece of the floor has four corners and there’s a 90 degree angle between each corner. The most common type of layout for vinyl planks is a step pattern.

This means that each plank has a corner of one piece next to the middle of another piece. There’s usually around a 1/2″ gap between flooring pieces, but if you have enough patience, you can make it closer together with some effort and creativity.

There are two different types of step patterns. The first is called a “3-Step” pattern where each plank has the corner of the next piece touching its middle.

The second is what we call a “6-Step” pattern which has each plank’s corner touching the middle of the next piece’s side or face.

If you have the patience, creativity, and time to use a 6-Step layout on your vinyl planks, it’s going to be pretty difficult to stagger them without having some boards go straight down or up against walls.

This is why most people use 3-Step patterns instead of 6-Steps. A 3-Step pattern will allow you to stagger each plank as seen below.

If this is your first time doing this or you want to speed up the process, you can add a few extra pieces of vinyl flooring together in the same box and create an “H-Joint” using real hardwood floor pieces instead.

This will make it much faster when laying vinyl planks down so be prepared!

Keep Reading: Complete Guide On Drying Water Under Vinyl Floor

Figure Out The Spacing Rules For Vinyl Plank Flooring

Once you have the vinyl flooring pieces together and ready to go, it’s time to start figuring out how they’re going to be placed on the floor.

We recommend doing a quick mock-up on a board or large piece of paper so you can get a good idea of how things are going to look before you put them down.

One of the most important rules when it comes to staggering vinyl planks is that you’re going to need a 1/4″ gap between each line of flooring.

This means that every single piece of your flooring has to be separated by this amount in any direction possible (up and down, side to side, etc). If you don’t, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb and look unfinished.

Another important aspect of vinyl plank flooring is that each corner piece needs to be adjacent (touching) one another.

This means that two boards should never touch side by side with only the thin layer of plastic in between them – unless they’re the last two pieces of flooring.

You’ll need to place your first corner space about 1/4″ away from the wall like usual then stagger each plank until it’s touching its own middle. The last piece of vinyl flooring will be touching both corners which is normal.

Here’s another example of how your flooring should look if you’re laying the vinyl plank in a 3-Step pattern. All corner pieces need to touch their own middle piece and there should be a 1/4″ gap in between every single line of flooring.

You can see that when you lay this down on the ground, it actually creates an 8-Pointed Star instead of a straight path.

Now, remember, you can also use the 6-Step pattern with vinyl planks to stagger them as well. This is only recommended if you’re willing to put in more time and effort into it because there isn’t really any noticeable difference between using a 3 Step layout or a 6 Step layout.

If you take your time and make sure to follow the rules for laying vinyl planks, your flooring should turn out great. Once you nail down these basics, it’s easy to switch things up by adding borders, changing up the design, etc.

Keep Reading: Steps On Installing Vinyl On Stairs Properly

Find Out How Many Vinyl Planks Are Required

Once you have the home stretch and the rules of staggering vinyl planks down, it’s all about finding out how many boxes you need to buy and how much space is covered.

All you really need to do is find out what size your room is and use a tape measurer to estimate how far apart each plank will be placed. If you have a room that’s 12′ x 8′, you’re going to need to lay 5 planks down on each row then stagger them about 6.25″ apart.

If you don’t know how far apart they should be placed, it’s usually best to take a step back and look at your flooring from the side view since this is what you’ll be seeing when panning around the room.

You can also mark down your measurements on a piece of paper to give yourself something to remember them by.

Another helpful tip is to leave about 6″ or so in between each line of vinyl flooring if you want to add borders later on. This is because most borders need to be laid down on top of at least two consecutive rows but won’t be as wide as the floor itself.

After figuring out what size your room is, you can then see how many boxes you’ll need to buy. This isn’t a perfect science by any means but most packages of vinyl roll out planks come in 12-box quantities. If you have a 12′ x 8′ room, you’ll need to buy 7 boxes.

For larger rooms, you may want to consider cutting the vinyl in half before laying it down on the floor. This will save some time and effort when it comes to placing each one down. You can also do this with borders if needed but that’s a lot of cutting.

If the thought of doing that scares you, then just fork out some extra money and have it delivered straight to your door instead of going back and forth from the store. Either way, buying in bulk will save you time and money in the long run.

Keep Reading: Know More About Anatomy Of Flooring

Choose The Suitable Stagger Spacing

Now that you know how many boxes of vinyl plank flooring you need to buy, it’s time to figure out what the stagger spacing should be.

This is where people tend to make mistakes and end up buying more than they should or underestimating how much they actually need.

If the stagger spacing between two adjacent planks isn’t wide enough, it won’t be noticeable when you’re done laying everything out.

However, if they are too far apart, the joints will become very visible once you’ve gotten your floor nice and clean.

This is where knowing some simple math comes in handy – especially if you don’t have a tape measurer to help set things up for you.

You need to make sure that the spacing between each and every line is far enough apart (about 7.5″) so you can easily fill up all of the gaps without leaving any empty space.

To find out how many boxes you’ll need, do some simple math by dividing your room’s length/width in half, then multiplying it by 0.075. In our example, there is a 12′ x 8′ room that needs to be filled with 5 rows of vinyl planks.

This means that you’ll need 2 rows with a staggered spacing of 1.5″, followed by 3 more rows with a staggered spacing of .75″. This will leave you plenty of open space in between each row so you can cut in and add borders if need be.

After you’ve figured out the staggered spacing, it’s time to determine how much space in between each line is needed.

You’ll obviously want to leave enough room for both your hands and feet when panning around the room to avoid kicking or stepping on any seams.

The very least you’ll want to leave is a 1″ gap but having 2″ in between each line works best for larger rooms.

If you’re looking to save some time, many vinyl flooring manufacturers offer “starter boxes”. These contain around 9-12 planks that will cover about a 3′ x 3′ area as well as 4 or 5 boxes of accessories.

Having one or two of these will save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to having to buy the full amount later on down the road. And since they come pre-boxed, it’s easy to take them back for a refund if you don’t need everything that comes with them.

Keep Reading: Detailed Information On Toxicity Of Vinyl Flooring

Mix Up All The Vinyl Planks

Before you can get started with laying everything out, it’s important that you take the time and mix up all of your vinyl planks.

This is because some of them may not lay completely flat and there will likely be some bumps and creases on a few of them.

To avoid having to go back and fix any issues later on down the road, take some time and mix up all of your vinyl planks.

By doing this, you won’t have to worry about any of them being stuck together because they’ll be laying out completely flat.

Before mixing up all the flooring choices, it might be a good idea to divide them into piles based on their color or style so you can get an idea of what kind of pattern you’re working with.

After they’ve been mixed up, you’ll want to evenly space each row so that they are roughly 6-8″ in between each other.

Place First Board

Once you’ve bought everything you need and done all the proper prep work, it’s time to get started with laying out your floor.

The very first thing that you’ll want to do is place the first board right up against the wall. By doing this, you can easily cut it down later on if need be since it will be under a lot of stress while you’re sticking it down.

After the first board is done, make sure to cut a length of underlayment and lay it right over top it. This step will be crucial in making sure your floor doesn’t creak or wobble while you walk across it – especially if you’ve chosen to use two different kinds of flooring for each row.

Next, mix up some adhesive – making sure to use the exact amount that the manufacturer recommends. After the adhesive has been mixed, spread it out with a trowel across all of the edges and corners of your first planks.

Be sure to take your time when applying the adhesive because if you don’t, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with some gaps between the planks.

Once the adhesive has been spread out in all areas, use your trowel or putty knife to push your boards right up against the underlayment underneath them. This will allow the adhesive to really bind down onto the flooring and help you avoid any gaps.

Then Go For Second Row Plank

After your first row has been done, it’s time to move on to the second row. The same process applies here as well; except instead of cutting down the underlayment that you used for the first row, simply cut off what you’ll need for this one.

Then mix up some adhesive and spread it out following the same process as the first row. After this is done and you’ve laid your second row down, cut off what you’ll need for next on the third row and then continue to follow the same steps until each row is finished.

On average, there should be about a foot or so of leftover flooring at the very end of each row. If there are any cuts that you need to make, this is the best time to do it, as opposed to having to pull up everything later on down the road. This way, you’ll have a lot less stress and work cut out for yourself.

Each row should be no more than 24″ apart from each other – at least not if you want to avoid the flooring from coming unglued.

If your room is under 400 square feet, then there should only be about 6 rows total that you’ll need to use. If it’s more than 400 square feet in size though, this will likely jump up to 8 or 9 rows.

It’s also important that you stagger your vinyl planks because doing so will make sure they all fit together seamlessly. This way, you’ll prevent yourself from having to make any cuts later on down the road.

When you’re about halfway finished with each row, take a look at the one underneath it and try to form some kind of pattern that looks good to you. If you notice any gaps starting to form, go ahead and cut some pieces down until they fit.

Once your last row has been finished, you’ll want to use the leftover flooring pieces to fill up the small spaces that are left in between each row. This will also help prevent any type of shifting or tilting when people start walking on it.

After the planks have all been laid and you’re happy with how everything looks, it’s time to trim up some of the excess pieces. Using a fine tooth saw or rotary miter saw will definitely help speed things along here because if you don’t have one, this task can take a considerable amount of time.

Additional Key Takeaways

  1. Just be sure to cut the pieces with a shorter height rather than trying to make them longer. This way, you’ll avoid any long gaps between each piece and your vinyl plank flooring.
  2. If there are multiple pieces of leftover planks in each row, try to fit them together as best you can because this will help give your room more depth and dimension.
  3. Then, simply apply some adhesive to each end of the planks and use your trowel or putty knife to push them into place.
  4. Once you’re done clearing up all of these extra pieces, it’s time to let the flooring stand for about 24 hours. This will make sure that everything dries properly before you can start walking on it.
  5. Once you do start walking on the flooring though, be sure to put down some sort of padding or felt underneath your feet so that you don’t scratch up the surface of the plank tiles.
  6. After 24 hours have passed, go ahead and grab your swiffer or vacuum cleaner because you can now use this to clean up any debris or dust that has gathered.

And with that, you’re finished! Your vinyl plank flooring should now be ready for use and things like chairs or couches can now go right back on top of it without having to worry about damage. You might also love to read our guide on using vinyl flooring outdoors properly.

Final Verdict

Now that you know how to stagger vinyl plank flooring, the installation process should be a lot easier for you. Just make sure that you follow all of the steps carefully and take your time with each one.

If there are any gaps or spaces between the planks, try to fill them in as best as you can using some of the leftover pieces from each row.

And once everything is finished, be sure to give it at least 24 hours so that the adhesive has enough time to dry properly. Congratulations on your new flooring!

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